Germany takes Gülen movement off watchlist, conducting counterespionage against Turkish gov’t

German police have removed the Gülen movement from its “dangerous” and “to be followed” watchlist, Turkey’s neo-nationalist Sözcü newspaper reported, citing a domestic security report from Germany’s southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg.

Germany is home to a large number of exiled sympathizers of the Gülen movement. The report noted that the country’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has also placed Turkey in the same category as Russia, China and Iran, which Berlin sees as political rivals, noting that they are conducting counterespionage against Ankara.

The report stressed that the Turkish government is targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement not only in Turkey but in Germany as well. The report also pointed to a noteworthy increase in the activities of Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT) targeting members of the movement in the state of Baden Württemberg.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters earlier this month that Ankara gave a list of 136 people who are allegedly linked to alleged “terror organizations” to Berlin during his state visit to Germany Sept. 28-29, while Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany needed more evidence if it was to classify the Gülen movement as “terrorist.”

President Erdoğan, on the eve of the visit, had also urged Germany to designate the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization, although Germany had previously rejected this request. “Our primary expectation from the Federal Republic of Germany is that it recognizes FETÖ as responsible for the attempted putsch, just as Britain did,” Erdoğan wrote on the website of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by President Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.

Relations between Ankara and Berlin have been badly strained by a crackdown in Turkey after the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, in which dozens of German nationals were imprisoned.

Germany is home to 3 million people of Turkish origin. Ankara is angry with Berlin for giving asylum to alleged members of the Gülen movement, while German authorities fret over Erdoğan’s influence over Germany’s Turks.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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